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United around the globe to foster international trade and the advancement of women in business.


OWIT-Toronto wants to provide you with current and valuable news and resources on a regular bases. We do this through our site as well as through our monthly newsletter. Sign up today to receive these in your inbox.

  • Sunday, August 02, 2020 11:11 AM | Anonymous

    The prestigious Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Grant of over $2.4 million was recently awarded to the Diversity Institute. The grant money will be used to undertake a research project over six years examining the barriers faced by women and diverse groups such as immigrants, racialized people, indigenous people and persons with disabilities. It will also lead on strategies to strengthen an inclusive innovative and entrepreneurship ecosystem. The project has a goal of engaging more than 1000 stakeholder organizations and 100,000 entrepreneurs.

    The Diversity Institute bid was supported by OWIT-Toronto. The grant is quite timely to help bring to light a gender and diversity lens to entrepreneurship, identify barriers and, more importantly, recommend practices to overcome these barriers in order to drive forward an inclusive economic recovery. The research project will leverage work being done by the Future Skills Centre and the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub.

    “We know that women and diverse groups continue to face systemic barriers,” says Prof Wendy Cukier, Founder Diversity Institute, Ted Rogers School of Management and Professor of Entrepreneurship, Ryerson University. “As Canada responds to the pandemic, preliminary research shows that women and diverse groups are disproportionality impacted and there is a risk that we will lose the traction we have gained on gender and diversity.”

  • Sunday, August 02, 2020 11:08 AM | Anonymous

    The Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH), in partnership with the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE), launched a new sharing intuitive platform built by SheEO. The platform provides a support system and network for women entrepreneurs to overcome the challenges and impact of COVID-19 on their businesses. It also helps to sustain the great strides women entrepreneurs in Canada have made and continues to encourage and empower those entering the field for the first time.

    The WEKH/FWE Sharing Platform allows members of the women entrepreneurship ecosystem to draw from the knowledge and reach of the community and share their own learnings to access business opportunities and collaboratively tackle challenges. Through the platform, if you have a specific need, post an Ask that someone who can help may respond to. If you can share something beneficial with another member of the community, offer a Give.

    Facilitated Ask/Give sessions are running each Thursday in August from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. EST. Join the community and learn more about the platform and how you can use it to connect with your members and clients, and women entrepreneurs across Canada.

  • Sunday, August 02, 2020 11:04 AM | Anonymous

    The 2020 Inaugural Women’s Global Trade Empowerment Forum presented by the US Commercial Service under the theme “Expanding Trade in North America & Beyond” was kickstarted on July 28. The six-part digital series is a must-attend event for women entrepreneurs in Canada, the US and Mexico who wish to boldly grow their business into new markets.

    In light of the implementation of the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), the forum provides an opportunity to gain the tools, skills and networks to build an export strategy and develop business connections. The first day of the virtual forum was focused on “USMCA and the Future of Trade in North America: Expanding and Diversifying Sales” which highlighted perspectives from government on CUSMA’s business impact and private sector women business leaders on how the Trade Agreement could help to expand and diversify sales throughout the region.

    The session focused on an integrated approach to women’s economic empowerment, the utilization of CUSMA as a powerful trade catalyst to ensure that North America remains an economic powerhouse and CUSMA provisions that elevate women’s voices and entrepreneurship, making women SMEs more competitive. Key trade chapters that advance women’s interests were discussed including the SME chapter, labour, customs and trade facilitation chapter, as well as digital trade and investment chapters.

    Key tips and strategies were shared on leveraging exporting as a long-term growth strategy, integrating ecommerce as a key driver of this strategy, becoming conversant with government programs and ensuring a high level of due diligence when conducting business.

    OWIT-International is a proud partner of the Forum. Complimentary registrations are open for the next virtual series.

    August 11

    12:00-1:00PM EDT

    Financing the Deal and Getting Paid

    August 25

    12:00-1:00PM EDT

    Thriving in the Digital Trade Economy Under USMCA

    September 1

    12:00-1:00PM EDT

    Making USMCA Work for You: Customs & Rules of Origin

    September 10

    12:00-1:00PM EDT

    Improving the Legal Framework

    September 22

    12:00-1:30PM EDT

    Protecting your most Important Asset - Your IP, Woman-Owned Business Success Stories

  • Sunday, August 02, 2020 10:49 AM | Anonymous

    Lyse Moreau has continued the strong legacy and tradition of a woman-owned firm thriving in the Niagara region. International Sew Right (ISR) was founded by Lyse’s mother, Claudette Gauthier, in 1983. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Lyse began working at ISR in the 1980s, and became partners with her mother in 2001, making positive changes to get ISR ready to export. In 2006, she became the sole owner and, in 2011, ISR became a 100% woman-owned manufacturing facility.

    Her 8,500 square-foot company facility is located in the industrial park near Chippawa in Niagara, with a dedicated team of eight employees, focused on importing and exporting uniquely improved safety garments and products. ISR’s core business over the years has been dedicated to custom-designing and manufacturing safety clothing, focusing on proximity suits, arc flash protection, high heat, fire-retardant and high-visibility clothing, coveralls, bib overalls, shop coats, aprons, sleeves, head protection, welders clothing and tarps, gloves, parkas, bomber jackets, and up to about 400 different types of safety products.

    Under her leadership, Lyse has restructured operations in targeted ways that include upgrading the accounting and purchasing departments, automating cutting and sewing areas as well as redesigning the shipping and receiving departments.

    Industry memberships such as those with OWIT-Toronto and the Niagara Industrial Association have been crucial to business growth. They have provided support networks, information and have supported wider market expansion, resource mobilization efforts and coordination in a sector that keeps booming.

    “Business growth is always a top priority. ISR’s membership in OWIT-Toronto and the Niagara Industrial Association has been instrumental,” Lyse says. “Niagara Industrial Association members are all involved in some type of manufacturing, and they provide a good support system and information in the manufacturing field, which saves us a lot of time and is greatly appreciated.”

    [left] Lyse Moreau graces the cover of the Niagara Industrial Association Magazine. [right] Lyse and team are featured in the Niagara Industrial Association Magazine.

    Stepping into the gap, taking gigantic steps to product pivoting

    Focusing on niche products and operating as a Tier 1 and Tier 2 company ready to assist anyone with a safety concern has meant more business wins for Lyse. This has been reflected in the number of accolades that Lyse and her company have received, including: the 2004 Niagara Entrepreneur of the Year Award; 2014 Ontario Health and Safety Golden Award (Reader’s Choice Award for Designing and Manufacturing Safety Apparel and Aluminized Clothing); 2015 Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneur of the year; 2015 Women’s Distinguish Award for Achievements in the Industry; and 2019 The Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce Excellence in Manufacturing Award, among others.

    Like every other business around the world, ISR was affected by the unique challenges caused by COVID-19. Despite challenges with delays to receive fabrics and textiles and key raw materials for ISR’s manufactured safety products, the company has also seen larger volume orders from companies requiring to stock up on inventory. Her company further rose to the challenge and championed the COVID-19 support program, which signalled ISR’s product pivot to making masks and a variety of other medical supplies including PET masks, face masks, hand sanitizers, gowns, lab coats and gloves. Lyse has since donated thousands of masks to frontline workers in the healthcare sector and to different communities in Ontario.

    With the product pivot, ISR has since received orders to make masks from cotton, polycotton and fire-retardant fabrics for the healthcare industry. These masks are manufactured in different styles, colours, and are reaching families, nursing homes, hospitals, construction sites, foundries and other areas where they are desperately needed.

    Leading by example, ISR was also quick to adopt the health and safety guidelines from medical experts, spacing all sewing machines at least six feet apart from one another, providing workers with protective items like gloves and masks, as well as following a strict cleaning schedule that included disinfecting surfaces that were regularly touched.

    ISR’s domestic manufacturing base provided agility and speed to respond to the pandemic and rapidly shift to mask production. Lyse’s great oversight to restock materials before the pandemic also meant that their work was not stalled due to reliance on international vendors who couldn’t temporarily ship their products. A key lesson for Lyse and others in the manufacturing field has been an increased emphasis on self-sufficiency that will encourage domestic producers to expand their operations and resist offshoring.

    “Keeping communities safe is integral to who we are at International Sew Right,” Lyse says. “We fully recognize that our company has an important role to play during this trying time of COVID-19, and we are ready to take on the gigantic steps to do all we can to help our communities to remain safe and to thrive.”

    [left] ISR team at work. [right] Lyse launches the ‘COVER UP AGAINST COVID-19 CANADA’ support program, bringing together volunteers and the Niagara region community in an inclusive community engagement to sew masks to help with the shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Expanding ISR’s international footprint

    Lyse has been strategic in positioning ISR to ensure a competitive advantage in the global marketplace. ISR sells across Canada with a growing customer base in the US, and exports to Brazil and India, as well as plans to export to Mexico. To access the Mexico market, she participated in a trade mission organized by OWIT-Toronto in 2019 to the city of Monterrey in northeast Mexico. During this trade mission, top Canadian businesswomen were introduced to Mexican leads to leverage exporting opportunities, and this resulted in solid connections for ISR.

    Lyse has also been fearless in taking her company to the next level, participating and presenting her company pitch to CBC’s auditions for TV’s Dragons’ Den in 2019 to expand business and increase the export base.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has caused massive negative industry impacts in real time, disrupting supply chains and halting exports. However, the effects of the pandemic have also resulted in an unprecedented surge in demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This has led to companies like ISR that have pivoted to making masks and a variety of other medical supplies to expand their domestic production. The longer-term effects on the industry could be an increased emphasis on domestic production capacity to support national health concerns.

    The safety and protective manufacturing industry in Ontario and worldwide thrives on the occupational health and safety regulations put in place to ensure that workplaces are safe and healthy. An increasing number of regulations have been introduced to protect workers from hazardous conditions that might cause injury. Increased changes in workforce operations and industrial growth will continue to sustain demand for industry products and mitigate industry volatility.

    Lyse continues to aim higher to increase ISR’s market reach internationally to meet an increased worldwide demand from construction and industrial growth that will continue to drive forward the demand for safety and protective equipment into the next decade. Memberships in associations like OWIT-Toronto will be beneficial to stay the course, providing topical international trade information and trade missions to help expand market access for women.

    “Seizing global opportunities is one of our priorities, and our membership with OWIT-Toronto is therefore key in this regard,” Lyse notes. “My experience at OWIT-Toronto’s trade mission in Monterrey was an eye-opener and I am keen to look at various strategies to leverage and tap into the different connections and networks from the mission.”

    [left] Lyse at the Dragons' Den auditions. [right] Lyse participates in the OWIT-Toronto trade mission in Monterrey, Mexico with top Canadian women executives.

  • Sunday, August 02, 2020 10:45 AM | Anonymous

    Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, concluded a successful Canada-led Ottawa Group meeting in June 2020 on strengthening rules-based trade and keeping supply chains open amid COVID-19 and beyond.

    Canada, along with the other 12 Ottawa Group members, endorsed concrete steps contained in the Joint Statement of the Ottawa Group: Focusing Action on COVID-19. This statement establishes key actions for member countries to support an inclusive, sustainable, and resilient global recovery for Canadians.

    Reiterating the importance of the multilateral, rules-based trading system underpinned by the World Trade Organization (WTO), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also participated in the virtual meeting of the Ottawa Group on WTO reform in the context of COVID-19.

    Canada and the Ottawa Group have continued to provide leadership, critical thinking and analysis, as well as concrete ideas and proposals, on actions that could be undertaken on the global stage to lessen the economic impacts of COVID-19 on people around the world, and ensure more resilience when dealing with future crises.

    Key actions from the joint statement include greater transparency on export restrictions, predictable and open trade in agriculture, and advancing negotiations on e-commerce. The measures ensure the stability of trade for businesses, workers and people during the pandemic by supporting the movement of goods and services people rely on. It also lays the groundwork for a potential new WTO initiative making it possible for medical supplies to flow more easily.

    Canada and the Ottawa Group remain committed to the broader WTO reform agenda, including efforts toward a long-lasting solution for dispute settlement and conclusion of negotiations on harmful fisheries subsidies.

  • Sunday, August 02, 2020 10:05 AM | Anonymous

    July has been an active virtual month for OWIT-Toronto members, from providing guidance to Dominic Republic exporters to access Canadian markets, to participating in a virtual Asian trade mission, addressing the Women Economic Forum in India, participating in a CUSMA stakeholder call as well as presenting a digital marketing webinar, to running for a social innovative cause in support of Mexican farmers in Canada. Check out what some of our members have been up to virtually… as we remain OWIT-Toronto strong and proud!

    Alma speaks at Conference Webinar Series for Dominican Republic Exporters

    Alma Farias, OWIT-Toronto Board Director and Managing Director of Trade Partners, successfully delivered a presentation in a virtual three-part seminar organized by the Embassy of the Dominican Republic in Canada and the Cei-RD (Centro de Exportacion e Inversion de la Republica Dominicana). The conference webinar series were officially launched by the Ambassador of the Dominican Republic in Canada, Pedro Vergés Ciman. These webinar discussions were focused on helping Dominican Republic exporters learn how to grow effectively in the Canadian produce market and comply with food control requirements.

    Alma’s presentation, “The Canadian Import Produce Market and Opportunities for Dominican Republic Exporters”, provided an overview and analysis of the Canadian produce market and an outline of export product opportunities. Alma highlighted how Canada has one of the highest consumption rates of fresh vegetables in the world, and its imports are an integral component of the produce market and often necessary to fulfill Canadian demand year-round. Detailed discussions on the regulatory part were covered by two distinguished speakers based in Ottawa from CFIA and DRC.

    Anita participates in a virtual Asian trade mission

    Anita Agrawal, OWIT-Toronto’s strategic advisor and immediate past President, participated in a virtual two-week trade mission to Asia organized by the Toronto Region Board of Trade and the World Trade Centre Toronto (WTC-T). The July trade mission was organized to assist delegates representing key Canadian companies ready to expand internationally and unlock the potential of Asia’s consumer market. It provided the opportunity for Canadian brands to capitalize on commercial opportunities by tapping into the world’s largest e-commerce market and a rapidly-growing, affluent middle class, expanding their market footprint in Asia. It also provided connections for Canadian businesses to link with partners in global markets such as the Asian e-commerce giants, like Alibaba, Tmall Global, JD.com and Suning, to exchange industry best practices and sector knowledge, build connections and reflect on doing better business.

    The virtual Market Activation Program (vMAP) was launched as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic which caused governments to impose travel restrictions and made in-person trade missions impossible. The WTC-T led program enables market traction for Canadian companies in global markets and helps catalyze dynamic and rapid recovery from the global pandemic. The virtual missions offer SMEs the opportunity to build and refine their export strategy with best-in-class subject matter experts and virtually meet one-on-one with industry buyers and key go-to-market partners. The “Unlocking Asia’s Consumer Market Digitally” vMAP, had a schedule jam-packed with incredible speakers, companies and one-on-one meetings. As CEO of Best Bargains Jewellery and top jewellery brand, Jewels 4Ever, Anita was pleased to receive insights to refine and adapt her company’s export and expansion strategies for digital sales. “This virtual trade mission was quite timely and effective,” says Anita. “Going digital has been given a turbo-charge by COVID-19 lockdowns, and through the vMAP, we were able to take virtual site visits to key digital platforms, innovation hubs, distributors and wholesalers to understand their supply chain and identify opportunities for commercialization. We also have business-to-business meetings with large-scale buyers, distributors, and go-to-market partners.”

    Maria addresses Women Economic Forum in India

    Maria Marchyshyn, OWIT-Toronto’s strategic advisor and past Board Director, spoke at the Women Economic Forum (WEF), organized out of Bangalore, India, which took place online in July 2020. Under the theme, “Economic Independence Leading to Women Empowerment”, Maria elaborated on various ways that organizations and individuals work to achieve gender equality and women empowerment. She focused in particular on the importance of women’s economic empowerment and financial independence, emphasizing that it is not only about increasing women's access to jobs, but also to economic resources and opportunities, to financial services, to owning property and other assets and to ensuring access to markets and skills development. Maria suggested that women need to educate themselves more on finance and business; she encouraged women to find employment or start their own businesses and described its numerous benefits, other than just financial. She further stressed the importance of developing networks and joining organizations like OWIT, where women can turn for information, support and advice. Maria spoke widely on OWIT, its mission and its international presence and encouraged women to consider opening an OWIT chapter in India. As part of her participation, she received a WEF award.

    Susan participates in CUSMA stakeholder call… and presents digital marketing webinar

    Just prior to CUSMA (the new NAFTA) coming into force on July 1, VP-International Susan Baka represented OWIT-Toronto in a stakeholder call where CUSMA Chief Negotiator Steve Verheul expressed appreciation for stakeholder input throughout the negotiations. Although Canada would have preferred that implementation of the agreement be delayed due to the disruptions to businesses caused by COVID-19, the government is striving to make transition to CUSMA as smooth as possible to enable companies to take advantage of it as soon as possible. He said the situation going forward will be fluid as there are still some issues and challenges, and he encouraged continuing input from stakeholders.

    In her role as Ontario Regional Representative for TFO Canada (Trade Facilitation Office Canada), Susan also presented a webinar in July for small and medium exporters from developing countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Selling in a New World: It’s All About Digital Marketing emphasized the increasing importance of digital marketing and e-commerce fuelled by the pandemic. Susan outlined digital marketing trends such as the exploding growth of social media and she shared best practices for effective websites, email marketing, blogging and e-commerce. TFO Canada helps exporters from developing countries access the North American market.

    Priti runs for a social innovation cause for Mexican farmers’ families in Canada

    OWIT-Toronto Board Director and VP-Events Priti Ruparel took part in a virtual 5 Km race in July as part of the “Corre Por Ellos” Challenge organized by the Mexico Business Club. The charitable cause was to support the family members of the Mexican farmers in Canada who were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. She completed her 5 Km challenge in 29 mins. 55 secs, coming in 7th out of 48 runners. Fellow Board Director Alma Farias sponsored and nominated Priti for this noble cause. This platform provided a unique opportunity to link sports with social impact, giving necessary support to those who needed it the most. Participants in the race either ran or walked for 5 Km on Saturday July 25 or Sunday July 26, at a convenient time and place.

    Priti dedicated her 5 Km race to Alma for having faith in her and making her part of such a wonderful initiative. A passionate half-marathoner, Priti also expressed immense pleasure to be part of this sincere cause especially during these challenging times caused by the pandemic. “The Corre Por Ellos Challenge gave me a sense of purpose as a runner,” Priti said. “No words to express the joy and happiness.” Now that’s our definition of women uplifting each other and their communities!

  • Thursday, July 30, 2020 11:46 AM | Anonymous

    OWIT-Toronto in partnership with Language Advantage Inc. organized a webinar focused on the importance of speaking the client’s language when developing export plans in Hispanic Markets. Moderated by OWIT-Toronto Board Director, Alma Farias of Trade Partners, the webinar provided strategies on accessing the Hispanic export markets through engagement and cultural awareness, and through language the most common characteristic of Hispanic culture.

    Catherine Jodar of Language Advantage Inc. emphasized that cultural competency and foreign language are critical, and has become a valuable contributor to international business success. For example, one in four US employers lost business due to lack of language skills (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) and American businesses lost more than US$2 billion a year due to cultural misunderstandings. She also underscored the three cultural competencies that could make or break a foreign business deal including time, trust and business style.

    Lyse Moreau of International Sew Right reflected on her first trade mission to Monterrey in Mexico organized by OWIT-Toronto. She noted the very open and receptive nature of the people and cleared up any misunderstandings of doing business in the region, as she found it very safe, with good access to technology and connectivity. She highlighted the importance of speaking the Spanish language to create more personal connections and bolster business deals.

    Providing key tips on accessing Hispanic export markets, Fabiola Sicard of the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade explained the business culture of Mexico and Latin American countries. Conducting business in Mexico and Latin America is relationship based rather than transactional, so there is need to invest time in building relationships, participating in long business meetings and social gatherings. Formal dress code is strongly encouraged and hierarchy followed so it is important to understand the organizational chart of potential partners or clientele and to figure out decision makers and influencers. There is less formality with regards to time and punctuality, and it’s important to be straightforward when there is an issue when dealing with Mexicans.

    Fabiola also strongly recommended the use of Canadian resources available to exporters such as the Trade Commissioner Service which helps Canadian companies reach target markets, and the Ontario Trade and Investment Office in Mexico which provides one on one consultations, market intelligence, and assistance in finding partners/prospects.

    In an interactive learning session, which included a prize, participants learned key communication differences in different Hispanic markets. A free offer for OWIT-Toronto members to learn Spanish for six weeks was also announced, as well as discounted customized courses by Language Advantage Inc. for OWIT-Toronto members. And in a lively Q&A format, the panelists shared more tips to become more culturally aware and ensure success doing business in different Hispanic markets. It was also noted that it is easier to do business in Hispanic countries with which Canada has Free Trade Agreements.

    A list of useful links and resources was also provided to support accessing Hispanic export markets:

    Ontario Trade Calendar

    Contact Information Trade Commissioners in Mexico City

    Contact Information Trade Commissioners in Monterrey

    Contact Information Trade Commissioners in Guadalajara

    The event recording can be accessed here.

  • Sunday, June 07, 2020 3:16 PM | Anonymous

     ‘COVER UP AGAINST COVID-19 CANADA’ program was kickstarted by Lyse Moreau, President of International Sew Right (ISR) together with her team, business associates, volunteers and the Niagara region community in April 2020. ISR is a woman owned diversified company that imports and exports uniquely improved safety garments and products. The company manufactures and custom designs safety clothing, medical, lanyard clothing, working at heights clothing, women's wear and comfort wear as well as men’s work wear. The

    ISR COVID-19 support program signalled ISR’s product pivot to making masks. Initially, this began as an answer to community support when Lyse received a phone call from a patient receiving dialysis treatment who required masks to continue receiving treatment at the hospital. With a firm affirmative response, Lyse knew what role ISR could play to help control the community spread of the coronavirus.

    With immediate effect, masks making went into full swing production and since then, they have received orders to make masks for the healthcare industry from cotton, polycotton and fire-retardant fabrics. These masks are manufactured in different styles, colors, and are reaching families, nursing homes, hospitals, construction sites, foundries and other areas where they are desperately needed. Medical supplies produced now include PET masks, face masks, hand sanitizers, gowns, lab coats and gloves.

    With the initial launch of the program, 23,000 masks were donated in three weeks, reaching far and wide, including to children in Toronto. Lyse notes the extraordinary delight she has felt on seeing children covered up, the gratitude received from different people as well as the inclusive community engagement in the program. The social impact has had far-reaching results reflecting strong Canadian pride and joy in supporting the first responders and the hospitals.

    Lyse Moreau, a proud OWIT-Toronto member is extending these benefits to fellow OWIT members in Toronto, donating 3,000 masks to the organization. “Keeping communities safe is integral to who we are at International Sew Right”, Lyse says, “We fully recognize that our company has an important role to play during this trying time of COVID-19, and we are ready to take on the gigantic steps to do all we can to help our communities to remain safe and to thrive.”

    OWIT-Toronto members will be receiving up to 3,000 free masks on a first-come first-serve basis paying only for shipment charges. The face masks have been packaged in a set of 24 per bag, and shipment is available while stock last. Helen Hemmingsen, President OWIT-Toronto welcomed the very generous offer from Lyse Moreau and the ISR team, noting, “We are greatly inspired by how Lyse Moreau and her team at International Sew Right came together to quickly pivot their business to support the community with COVID-19 protective solutions. We hope to share these uplifting stories and lessons to the rest of our members to support each other in creating innovative strategies for business evolutions during the pandemic.”

    Individual masks for retail are available, with single masks going for $6.99 each, double fabric masks at $8.50 each and double fabric masks with replaceable filters at $15.00 each. For orders and more information, please contact Lyse Moreau at Lyse@safetyclothing.com and the ISR website for more on their innovative protective product catalogue.

  • Monday, May 11, 2020 4:27 PM | Anonymous

    The impact of trade and trade policies is shaped by the structure of markets and institutions and the gender inequalities that are embedded within them. Trade policies and agreements influence the opportunities of women and men to access secure and decent employment and to benefit from international trade. To set the issues in context, the brief focuses on gender and trade issues relevant to Canada and the European Union, and recommendations are applied specifically to the Canada–European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

    Get the report here.

    Resource Information Publisher: WE EMPOWER Programme of EU, ILO & UN Women, UNCTAD

  • Saturday, May 02, 2020 3:56 PM | Anonymous

    *This article was originally published in The Canadian Business Quarterly available here.

    On the occasion of the recently celebrated International Women’s Day, and its key theme, “Each for Equal. An equal world is an enabled world”, we pause and reflect on what this means in terms of empowering and advancing women in international trade. Without a doubt, gender equality and women’s economic empowerment are essential to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to achieve inclusive growth, leaving no-one behind. Momentum has been gaining in international trade institutions in recent years to better recognize the potential of women-owned businesses and support their growth.

    Rocky challenges

    Women entrepreneurs are growing in leaps and bounds around the world and are increasingly an important driver of economic growth, but they continue to remain underrepresented in global trade and participation in global value chains. Only one in five women export and women-owned firms win only one to two percent of multinational corporate and government procurement contracts. Women-owned businesses are often concentrated in service sectors and informal sectors that are less trade intensive. Many lack resources needed to expand beyond borders, including access to contacts, education and financing. In some countries, there are still legal barriers that prevent women from owning land and accessing financing, plus cultural biases exist. Even in developed countries, women tend to self finance which limits their growth. In addition, although considered gender neutral, trade agreements can affect women and men differently. Historically, they have been negotiated without a gender lens and failed to take into account the needs of women and the impacts of agreements on them.

    Women entrepreneurship making waves

    Research shows that women continue to play a central role in the rise of the entrepreneurial economy in Canada, launching businesses at higher rates than before, often outpacing men. And, according to Startup Canada, Canadian women entrepreneurs have been taking on the business world despite barriers and disparities in funding and representation, contributing $148 billion annually to the economy while employing 1.5 million Canadians. According to a report, greater efforts to harness the power of women in the economy could boost Canada’s annual GDP by $150 billion in 2026. This reflects the immense potential for unparalleled growth and represents a significant stimulus for Canada’s economic growth and prosperity. On the global front, if women participated in the economy on equal footing as men in the labour market, this could add as much as $28 trillion, or a 26% increase over current growth, to global annual GDP by 2025.

    Global call to action

    Set against this backdrop, the Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT) was formed back in the 1980s in the US. Its story is part of the journey towards gender equality, with a focus on empowering women to trade globally. A not-for-profit global association, OWIT’s mission is to advance women in international trade and business, engaging over 2,000-plus members and 20 chapters around the globe that impact hundreds of millions of dollars in trade and business transactions annually. The organization provides education, information and high-quality networking. OWIT has local chapters in Canada, in Toronto and Ottawa. As the first Canadian chapter of this premier global trade association, OWIT–Toronto is a 20-year-old non-profit designed to promote women doing business in international trade. Through networking, educational and professional growth opportunities, the organization helps to build members’ expertise in the international trade arena. Members include women entrepreneurs, service providers, trade practitioners, executives, government representatives and business women involved in international trade as well as students passionate about international trade. OWIT-Toronto serves as a gateway to potential marketplaces through its global network, connecting women to the right contacts for support, information, education and inspiration. This includes connections to like-minded women, access to business contacts and service providers like bankers, as well as to trade missions, and information about financing programs that help support international growth. Through pursuing strategic partnerships with groups and programs both domestically and internationally that support women’s economic empowerment and global trade, OWIT-Toronto amplifies networking opportunities for its members. It also showcases role models to inspire other women and the younger generation to pursue trade careers and opportunities.

    Canada’s inclusive trade approach

    In Canada, tremendous strides have been taken to achieve women’s economic empowerment, and Canada already demonstrates best-in-class leadership on the international stage. The Canadian government’s policy and legal approach through its progressive trade agenda and Women Entrepreneurship Strategy provides an opportunity to double the number of women entrepreneurs by 2025. Its $2 billion investment in women’s economic and social development reflects its strong commitment. Canada has also provided resources for the expansion of Export Development Canada (EDC)’s Women in Trade investment program. The critical investments ensure that EDC is able to translate its goal of helping women-owned and -led businesses grow into new markets. And the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS)’s Business Women in International Trade (BWIT) program helps Canadian women-owned businesses access new export opportunities by organizing trade missions each year. At the global level, Canada’s trade diversification strategy enables a more inclusive approach to trade that provides access to benefits and opportunities from international trade and investment to more Canadians who have traditionally been under-represented, including women, SMEs and Indigenous peoples. Canada has also been a strong proponent of the application of Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+) to impact assessment, bringing this internationally recognized best practice to all realms of policy-making. Among the first in the world is a dedicated trade and gender chapter included in the modernized Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The trade and gender chapters in the Canada-Chile and Canada-Israel FTAs establish trade and gender committees to oversee cooperation activities and share experiences in designing programs that encourage women’s participation in national and international trade. Canada is also seeking to include gender chapters in FTA negotiations with the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur. Canada has been a global leader in championing and working with other partners to endorse the Joint Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment. The Buenos Aires Declaration was a decisive step, putting trade and gender on the WTO agenda like never before. The Declaration aims to promote women’s economic empowerment and tackle barriers that hamper their participation in global trade. To achieve this, it provides a platform to better understand the links between trade and women’s empowerment. Canada has hosted the first seminar organized under the Declaration, focusing on gender-disaggregated data and gender-based analysis. A number of workshops as well as research and joint studies have been done, and WTO Members championing the Declaration are currently working on its implementation report to be presented at the 12th Ministerial Conference in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan in June 2020. The report will look at ways to take this work forward.

    Making global trade inroads for women

    OWIT-Toronto has been supportive of Canada’s commitment in pursuing progressive and inclusive trade that benefits all. It actively engages with the government on the different programs supporting women in international trade, operating as a broker for its members to stay in touch with the latest information about government programs and their accessibility. The government, in turn, has been supportive of OWIT-Toronto’s mission, inviting participation in free trade agreement stakeholder consultations, such as the NAFTA renegotiation, and in ongoing dialogue to ensure that trade policies are better aligned with the interest of all Canadians, including women. The government has also supported trade missions organized by OWIT-Toronto to help expand market access for women. These missions provide excellent opportunities to meet valuable new contacts on the ground and build relationships that lead to new business. For example, in 2019, OWIT-Toronto led a Canadian women’s trade mission in the manufacturing, auto and ICT sectors to Monterrey, Mexico, and participants have since reported business wins.

    Building momentum and trading up

    Women’s economic empowerment has gained traction with governments and key stakeholders around the world. The Buenos Aires Declaration is a testament of this trajectory and, as a result, more WTO members are voluntarily incorporating a trade policy gendered lens in their reports, a 66% increase from 2018. Canada remains a trailblazer in championing inclusive trade on the world stage. Canada’s progressive trade agenda has resulted in a great deal of groundwork in policy making, in enhancing women’s capacity to trade, in creating equal opportunities as well as in providing a level playing field for both men and women. However, gaps still remain in ensuring that women are elevated. The inclusion of trade and gender chapters in FTAs is a positive development. According to trade specialists, this will help to raise awareness of gender equality issues in the trade discourse, and highlight the gaps that still exist. It will encourage broader participation by civil society and the private sector in the implementation of agreements, enhance cooperation between parties to the agreements on issues of immediate relevance to women, and strengthen capacity-building, especially when one party is a developing country. However, these chapters are also light and somewhat aspirational now. Milestones or specific goals are not included, dispute-settlement mechanisms do not apply, and potential impacts of trade liberalization pursued under the agreements on women’s well-being and economic empowerment are not addressed. What can governments do next? Convene public-private consultations to discuss specific actions and goals in parallel with trade agreements to improve women’s participation in trade and their economic impact. Address domestic policies like childcare that can impact women’s ability to expand globally. Encourage CUSMA members to develop a model of cooperation to address trade and gender, e.g., establish a trilateral gender and trade committee, including women entrepreneurs, to share best practices and to define concrete goals. Strengthen efforts to include women and historically underrepresented groups in supply chains through supplier diversity programs. Support capacity building of women by expanding and funding women’s enterprise centres and by sponsoring volunteer-run women’s trade organizations like OWIT. Canada is indeed making waves in its approach to take forward a progressive trade agenda to ensure that more women are engaged in trade and reaping the rewards that come with it. Step-by-step, and in a collective effort, we can ensure that nobody is left behind. Engaging and joining the conversations with OWIT, and other like-minded organizations, means fostering export opportunities for women-owned businesses – an investment in the Canadian economy as a whole. And in an increasingly protectionist world, women represent untapped potential to fuel more trade and be new stakeholders for exporting.

    Susan Baka is VP International, and Justine Namara is Director for the Organization of Women in International Trade – Toronto chapter (OWIT-Toronto)

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